Women’s Hoops Breaks Halftime Deadlock to Roll Over Tufts in Second Half
Issue   |   Tue, 02/28/2012 - 22:27
Photo courtesy of Chloe McKenzie '14

On Sunday afternoon, the Amherst women’s basketball team captured its third consecutive NESCAC Championship with a decisive 65-39 win over Tufts Univ. The Jeffs earned a 66-52 victory over Colby College in the semifinal game on Saturday en route to their fourth title in the past five years.

Amherst dominated Saturday’s semifinal game from the first buzzer, holding the Mules scoreless for the first six minutes of play. Colby missed its first nine shots of the game, but a jumper from guard Jil Vaughan finally put her team on the board. The Jeffs continued their offensive pressure, however, taking a 19-2 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the half.

Caroline Stedman ’12 and Marcia Voigt ’13 combined for 22 consecutive points before first-year Megan Robertson and senior Kim Fiorentino added a few baskets of their own. Fiorentino brought the lead to 18 with four points on a pair of free throws and a layup, while Roberston closed out Amherst scoring with two baskets to give the Jeffs their biggest lead of the half. The Mules managed to add a layup before the buzzer, but Amherst entered the break ahead, 35-17.

Colby jumped out early in the second half after Vaughan sparked an 8-1 run to bring the Mules within 14 points. Vaughan had four points in the run on two layups, while senior Aarika Ritchie buried four free throws to keep Colby’s hope alive.

Stedman rallied, however, with her fourth three-pointer of the game to get the Jeffs’ momentum back. Amherst fired off seven consecutive points, bringing the lead to 21 with just over 15 minutes left to play.

The Jeff defense shined in the middle of the second half, holding Colby to just three points over a six-minute stretch. Jasmine Hardy capped off the 11-3 run with a three-pointer to put Amherst ahead by 27.

A jumper from Vaughan ignited a 13-0 run for Colby as the Mules dominated the final six minutes of regulation. Colby came within 11 points with 1:19 left to play, but a pair of free throw shots and a jumper from Livia Rizzo ’13 solidified the Jeffs’ lead. Amherst pulled away with the final victory, 66-52.

Voigt led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Stedman finished with 14 points and five boards. Fiorentino followed with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Robertson tallied 11 points and nine rebounds for Amherst.

The first-half lead was the key for the Jeffs, with Colby outscoring Amherst 35-31 in the second half. Overall, however, the teams were nearly identical, both shooting 35 percent. Free throws would make the difference as Colby went 7-for-19 from the line while the Jeffs shot 11-for-16.

On Sunday, Amherst maintained its role as the best team in the NESCAC, claiming its third league title with a 26-point victory over Tufts. The teams were tied at the break, but the Jeffs opened second-half scoring with a 20-4 run and never looked back. The victory marked Amherst’s 63rd consecutive win and their 46th in LeFrak Gymnasium.

Tufts looked threatening as they jumped out to an early six-point lead, holding Amherst scoreless for the first three minutes. But Amherst quickly found their groove with a three-pointer from Lem Atanga McCormick ’12 for an 8-6 lead. First-year Hannah Foley fired back, however, burying two threes to give the Jumbos a four-point lead.

Consecutive three-pointers from Stedman and Fiorentino put the Jeffs ahead, but Tufts tied the game at 20 with another three-pointer from sophomore Caitlin McCure. A pair of free throws gave the visitors their final lead of the game with just two minutes remaining in the half. A layup from Stedman would tie the game at 24 as the two teams headed into the break. The Jumbos showed off their stellar defense with a 21-12 rebound advantage, holding Amherst its second lowest first-half point total of the season.

Fiorentino’s defense would be the key, however, as she helped break a 26-26 tie in the first two minutes of the second half. A pair of Stedman free throws triggered a 14-0 run for Amherst, with Voigt tallying eight consecutive points in the offensive burst. The run put the Jeffs ahead, 40-26, with 14:16 left to play.

A three-point play from Robertson with 5:51 remaining guaranteed an Amherst victory, as the Jeffs lead by at least 21 for the rest of the half. Voigt’s final jumper of the game gave the home team its biggest lead at 27 with five minutes remaining.
The Jumbos rallied in the final minutes with a 5-0 run, but three consecutive baskets gave Amherst the final victory, 65-39. The Jeffs outscored Tufts by a 41-15 margin in the second half.

Stedman led the way for Amherst with 17 points while Voigt added 13 off the bench and Atanga McCormick followed with 12. Fiorentino tallied eight points for Amherst on top of her impressive defensive effort that held Tufts to a 19.2 shooting percentage in the second half.

With the league victory Amherst improved to 27-0 on the season and received the NESCAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. On Monday, the Jeffs were selected as a regional host for the first two rounds of the tournament. With home court advantage, Amherst will face off against St. Joseph’s College of New York in the first round on Friday.

Babson College and Bridgewater State University will also play at LeFrak Gymnasium on Friday evening, with the winners of each game advancing to the second round game on Saturday.